The Patronage of the Empress Theodora and Her Contemporaries

  • Anne McClanan
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Because of the peculiar inflection of Prokopios’ Anekdota, evidence of Theodora’s (d. 548) patronage has been neglected in scholarly literature, although contemporary sources demonstrate its variety and extent. Theodora’s patronage affords the chance to see how typical, indeed banal, her fulfillment of the expectations of her role was. Records of the beneficence of the Emperor Justinian’s wife appear in several sixth-century sources, the best known being those by Prokopios, namely the Buildings and the Anekdota. We are not, however, compelled to rely on Prokopios alone. Other contemporary writings, typically relegated to a subordinate position, provide valuable information that augments our understanding of the empress’s patronage and importance. The Syriac historians John of Ephesus and John Malalas diverge from Prokopios’ account of this time. Other more limited sources include the Chronicon Paschale, Zacharias of Mitylene, and Victor Tonnensis. John Lydos, another courtier in Constantinople, offers perhaps the most direct corrective to Prokopios.1 To this wealth of resources can be added epigraphic traces, which comprise monograms and inscriptions that once emblazoned major buildings of the era. For example, a series of inscriptions from North Africa collected by Durliat testify to the ubiquity of the Empress Theodora’s name in the Empire’s urban spaces.2


Sixth Century Imperial Couple Contemporary Writing Contemporary Source Imperial Palace 
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© Anne McClanan 2002

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  • Anne McClanan

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